Prenatal testosterone and luteinizing hormone levels in male rats exposed during pregnancy to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin and diethylstilbestrol

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2001 Jun 10;178(1-2):169-79. doi: 10.1016/s0303-7207(01)00425-7.


Changes in the perinatal testosterone surge have been related to demasculinization of the central nervous system and androgen-dependent growth of the reproductive organs in male mammals. Earlier reports suggest that 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) interferes with androgen production, but the perinatal effects have remained elusive. In the present study we explored in utero-effects of TCDD (0.05, 0.1, 0.5, and 1.0 microg/kg), introduced on day 13.5 of pregnancy, on prenatal (day 19.5 post-conception [p.c.]) testosterone (T) surge and pituitary luteinizing hormone (LH) production in TCDD-resistant Han/Wistar (H/W) and TCDD-sensitive Long-Evans (L-E) rats. To elucidate estrogenic effects on T and LH production, Sprague-Dawley (S-D) fetuses with previously known DES-sensitivity were exposed in utero to diethylstilbestrol (DES, 100-300 microg/kg) on days 13.5, 15.5, and 17.5 p.c. For comparison, H/W fetuses that responded to TCDD treatments were exposed to DES at concentration of 100 microg/kg. It was found that TCDD has a stimulatory effect on testicular T synthesis in the H/W fetuses and that their circulating T concentrations increased significantly. The effect was not seen in the inbred L-E fetuses, which throughout the study showed considerably low testicular T levels. Pituitary LH concentrations also increased in the H/W fetuses exposed to TCDD. Effects of TCDD (1.0 microg/kg) in the H/W fetuses could be confirmed in vitro by human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) stimulation assay showing the highest response rate in the TCDD exposed testes. Stimulation of cyclic AMP (adenosine-3', 5'-cyclic monophosphate[cAMP]) production was not considerably altered by in utero TCDD exposure. A significant depression in testicular and plasma T content was seen in the DES-exposed S-D and H/W fetuses, but pituitary LH levels did not alter considerably. In the presence of hCG, DES-exposed testes showed lower in vitro T and cAMP production rates compared to the untreated testes. TCDD (1.0 microg/kg) increased and DES decreased the male body weight gain, but the changes were not sex-dependent. It is concluded that TCDD may increase the amplitude of the prenatal testosterone surge in male rats by stimulating pituitary LH production and enhancing the sensitivity of the fetal testis to LH. DES, on the contrary, apparently impairs testicular steroidogenesis and pituitary function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Cyclic AMP / biosynthesis
  • Diethylstilbestrol / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fetus / drug effects*
  • Fetus / metabolism*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Luteinizing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Pituitary Gland / drug effects
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sex Differentiation / drug effects
  • Testis / drug effects
  • Testis / metabolism
  • Testosterone / metabolism*


  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Testosterone
  • Diethylstilbestrol
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Cyclic AMP